Former Jeff Healey Band Drummer Describes Hilarious First Jam Session

If longtime Jeff Healy Band drummer and manager Tom Stephen doesn't have the greatest story ever of a first impression of a legend, it's got to be close.

In a recent visit to Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke, Stephen recalled the first time he jammed with blues guitar legend Jeff Healey, which was at a Toronto bar called Grossman's Tavern.

"I met Jeff a couple times, and I sort of had the feeling that he had some issues in terms of getting around," Stephen explained. "But it wasn't until that night at Grossman's, he leaped out of his chair — 'cause he played [with the guitar] on his lap. ... But he didn't just sit there with the guitar on his lap; he could jump out of the chair, literally hold his guitar against his thighs, he jumped all over the room."

"Somehow he got on a chair, got on a table, knocked everything over, made it back to the chair, sat down. [He said into the mic] 'Goodnight. Don't drink and drive. I know I don't.' And then he went back to this little room."  

Sitting at the drum kit, Stephen wasn't really sure what he just witnessed. He says he went back to talk to Jeff, where the guitarist asked him to join his band. Stephen said he wasn't sure what he was getting into, so he laid his cards on the table. 

"I said, 'Well, I'd like to start a band with you, that'd be cool. But I'm just finishing a degree, I'm taking life seriously; we gotta have a plan. And by the way, man, you're drinking a fair bit by the looks of things there.'"

"He goes, 'What do you mean?'"

"I said, 'Man, you're knocking everything over.'"

"He goes, 'Tom, I'm blind!'"

So they started that band together, finding bassist Joe Rockman some months later.

Stephen's new book, Best Seat in the House: My Life in the Jeff Healey Band, details his personal journey in music, as well as his career both onstage and behind the scenes with Healey. 

Check out the full interview above! Stephen shares more anecdotes like how Jeff would cheat in poker games and the truth about the rumor that Jeff once drove a tour bus up I-95, in spite of being both blind and drunk. 

Get more details on the book, Best Seat in the House here.   

Photo: Andrew Magnotta

Check out some of Jeff Healey's best performances below!

Here's The Jeff Healey Band with Stephen on drums, performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at Montreux in 1997. 

Here's Jeff Healey with Marcus Miller, Omar Hakim and Dr. John!

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